Summary and Analysis Chapter 21



On arising the next morning, Arkady saw Vassily Ivanovitch working in the garden. The father is anxious to hear as much about his son as he can. Arkady tells Vassily Ivanovitch that Bazarov is "one of the most remarkable people" he has ever known.

Furthermore, he is confident that "a great future awaits" Bazarov in some way. He then tells the history of their meeting and friendship. Vassily Ivanovitch knows that Bazarov does not like a great show of feelings and suggests that they try not to interfere with him too much. Bazarov appears just in time to join them for breakfast and to advise his father about a patient who is suffering from jaundice.

At noon, Arkady and Bazarov are stretched out in the shadow of a small haystack. Bazarov tells something of his earlier life and affirms that his parents have been very good to him. He is pleased that his folks have been able to adjust so well to their old age, but for himself, he feels so insignificant in view of all eternity. He feels very bitter about life and is still suffering something of the selfhumiliation resultant from his defeat by a woman. Arkady, not knowing about Bazarov's relationship with Madame Odintsova, cannot understand his friend who continues to be extremely cynical and negative. They disagree on several subjects, particularly whether a man should have any principles or not.

Just as the argument is about to get out of hand, Arkady suggests that they take a nap. A little later, Arkady makes an observation about a dry maple leaf resembling a butterfly in flight. Bazarov tells Arkady not to talk so foolishly, and asserts that Arkady seems determined to follow in the footsteps of his idiot uncle. Arkady feels that this is an insult that he cannot tolerate, but Bazarov does not stop. He goads Arkady further by sarcastically stating that only a stupid man feels the need to defend his family. Arkady wants to stop the discussion before they quarrel too seriously. Bazarov, however, would like to have one good quarrel "to the death, to annihilation." He suggests that he could seize Arkady's throat and destroy him. At this moment, the fight is prevented by the lucky appearance of Vassily Ivanovitch. The father explains that a local priest is going to dine with them, and since he knows his son's anti-clerical views, he hopes that he will not be offended by the priest. Bazarov asserts that he does not object so long as the priest does not eat his share of the food.

That night after supper, the group played cards and the priest proceeded to win some money from Bazarov. During the course of the evening, Bazarov's mother sat solicitously beside him offering him various things to drink.

The next day Bazarov announces his intentions to leave because he is bored and can't get any work done. He wants to go back to Marino, where he can at least accomplish something. Vassily Ivanovitch is greatly disappointed, but does not dare question or rebuke his son. After his son leaves, he is comforted by his wife in the loss.


Whereas Bazarov was abrupt and critical of both Arkady's and his own parents, Arkady conforms to his true nature and is exceptionally considerate of the Bazarovs. He is polite to the old man and takes delight in talking with Bazarov's mother. He discusses their son with them and makes him out to be a greater person than Bazarov actually is. It is, however, highly ironic that Arkady says that Bazarov is "hostile to all effusive feelings," since his friend has just been very effusive with Madame Odintsova. Arkady tells Vassily Bazarov that his son is destined to become a great man some day. This comment is additionally ironic in view of the fact that Bazarov will soon be dead.

The scene between the two friends offers additional views of Bazarov. He is still feeling humiliated for expressing his inner feelings to Madame Odintsova and speaks with extreme malice and hatred. He attacks Arkady relentlessly and mentions the reductio ad absurdum of the nihilist theory: "Having decided to mow everything down, then mow yourself down too." Also, he is ready to fight with his friend "to the death, to annihilation." The fight with all its portending viciousness is interrupted by the appearance of Bazarov's father, but at the moment he appeared, Bazarov was indeed ready to destroy his friend totally. Ironically, Vassily Ivanovitch immediately admires the physical appearance of the two young people and comments about how much strength is in each one, but does not know that this same strength was about to be used to destroy each of them.

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